Dutch newspaper quoting Greek newspaper

Yesterday Dutch newspaper NRC had an article in which reporters collected opinions of people in the streets of German and Greek cities, regarding the recent agreement involving 130 billion euros to help Greece.

The Dutch newspaper article showed a photograph Front page of Greek newspaper Democracy of 9 Februari 2012. Photo AP / Dimitri Messinis (AP / Dimitri Messinis) of the 9 February front page of Greek newspaper Dimokratia. The Dutch newspaper explained what the readers could easily see for themselves: that the Greek newspaper depicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a military uniform and with swastikas.

They didn’t recognize it?

There’s something else that they didn’t mention or explain in that Dutch newspaper, probably because the editors didn’t notice it.

But I did. I don’t know the Greek language, but I do know how the alphabet corresponds to the sounds and phonemes of the language. That enabled me to see very quickly what is printed there in those chocolate letters. (That’s what in Dutch we call such extremely large typeface characters, after an old habit of presenting the initial letter of people’s first name, cast in chocolate, as a present at the ‘Sinterklaas’ celebration.)

Greek phonology

The point is that Modern Greek pronounces the delta (for example, in the word democracy, dimokratía, δημοκρατία, also the name of that Greek newspaper) as a fricative sound similar to the ‘th’ in the English word ‘they’.

In Modern Greek, a sound like what is written ‘d’ in most other languages (English day, French Dax, German Dach, etc.) occurs only as a variant of ‘t’, under the influence of an ‘n’. That is why in foreign names and loanwords, the Greeks write it as nt (in Greek script: ντ).

(Similarly, Modern Greek has no ‘b’. They write the word ‘bar’ as ‘mpar’, μπαρ. Their beta character sounds as v.)

So in the chocolate letters that look like NTAXAOY (in Greek script: ΝΤΑΧΑΟΥ or Νταχαου) the NT stands for a D, the X stands for the ch in German Dach or Scottish loch, and OY (ου in lowercase) is like ‘u’ in German or ‘ou’ in French. So AOY (ΑΟΥ, αου) represents the Latin script combination ‘au’ of languages like German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese.

So what does that make NTAXAOY?

Try it for yourself, consistently replacing what you see character by character.


So what this newspaper Dimokratía (Δημοκρατία) does here, is suggest that the measures – which the Greek government promised to take in order to make its financial situation bearable again in future, which was a condition for other Euro countries to financially support Greece, again – are similar to being put in a World War II Nazi concentration camp like Dachau, and subjected to forced labour.

So now we also understand this strange subtitle, in Latin script, in German, with a Greek translation (το μνημόνιο απελευθερώνει) underneath: “MEMORANDUM MACHT FREI”. The memorandum is the agreement reached, a memorandum of understanding or memorandum of agreement.

The “macht frei” part is clearly a reference to the slogan Arbeit macht frei (Labour makes free) that was present over the gates of Nazi Germany concentration camps.

My opinion

I think what this Δημοκρατία newspaper did is a shame and a disgrace. Apart from also being a typical case of a Godwin, of course.

If you borrow money, eventually you will have to pay it back, as agreed. Meanwhile you have to pay interest, as agreed.

If you can’t, clearly something went wrong, but whatever the reasons for that, IT IS STILL YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

That is true of individuals, of families, and also of governments.

If you think somebody else or something else contributed to the problems in some way, you should address that, detailing what happened and trying to reach a settlement.

But you are just not, I repeat: NOT, going to shove off the responsibility, blaming others and saying those who try to help you, are really trying to put you in a concentration camp and make you do forced labour. You just DON’T.


Fortunately, in all the countries of the Council of Europe we have freedom of expression. So the Greek newspaper is free to do what I think it shouldn’t. And it is my freedom to object to it, LOUDLY. So I did.

As an aside: what is strange is that the Greek transcription of the name Dachau stresses the last syllable, whereas the German name has initial stress. So the Greek name is spelled Νταχάου instead of the more correct Ντάχαου.

To me, that German initial stress goes without saying, because Dutch is my native tongue and German and Dutch largely work the same where stress is concerned (although exceptions exist).

Addendum 29 January 2015

An interesting analysis of the Greek situation, by two young Greeks, Stratos Pourzitakis and Elias Kirgidis.

Copyright ©2012, 2015 by R. Harmsen. All rights reserved.